Why Brand Design Matters
Apple or Google? Ford, Chevy, Toyota, or Honda? Coke or Pepsi? Or Mountain Dew?
Every day, customers are making choices about the products and services to buy. Ask a user why they choose A vs B and she’ll tell you the logical reasons why A is superior – the specs are better, the technology is newer, and the product performs better log-term. But that’s just reason talking – below that logical final decision is a complex mix of emotional appeals and pulls – from social proof and what others are buying to the nuances about the look, feel, and language. The product or service fulfills a deeper need, and hooks with great design and messaging that resonates with the purchaser. It feels authentic to who that customer is and what she values. That is a well-designed brand.
Design is Intentional – and Intention Sells
When you take care in designing a great brand experience, from crafting a message that fits with the customer’s expectation, to how the product looks and performs, to a cohesive visual identity that excites and delights, you are intentionally creating a unique encounter between your company and your customer. Plan these details out – every touchpoint of your company should be reflective of your brand and the values your company represents. Through intentional design, your customers will better connect with you, have a story and visuals to get excited about, and give them something to think about and even share with others.
In my experience working with clients, those that see success and rapid growth curate ideas and a look and feel that gets their customer excited. They consider every piece of communication and brand touchpoint – from their website to their brochures to their product packaging – and think about the flow and connection between these elements. Even customer retention and invoicing should be treated as part of a brand. Utilizing tools like FreshBooks to customize the look and content of an invoice helps to ensure consistency with everything else you’re doing. After all, brand experience is the culmination of all of these touchpoints and how the product/service follows through on promises and expectations set in the design and messaging of their brand. A company can’t just say they’re the best, deliver a disjointed experience, and expect great results. All elements of design and marketing need to align to the common goal of setting expectation, reinforcing brand values, and feeling authentic to their audience in order for a business to grow.
Poor Design and Lack of Cohesion Hurts Brands
What I see most often in struggling brands and businesses is a lack of clear cohesion in design. Often this is the result of small and medium size businesses using different design teams to create different aspects of their marketing and brand message. For instance, utilizing 3 different publications and having the in-house design teams create ads that share no imagery or messaging for the same campaign, with a website designed by another firm that never reviewed the collateral folder used by the front-end sales team. And that collateral folder may have been designed by a member of the staff who simply likes designing things – but isn’t designed professionally to help promote the best imagery and messaging of the brand.
Even worse, we often see clients who think of these touchpoints as necessary evils or expenses rather than long-term investments. A website is now a business’s most accessible portal between customers and their business – what successful business would put an rookie salesperson on the floor alone to help their 50 most valuable customers alone? So why do some businesses think a free or low-cost website is the best option to represent their interests? A poor experience at any brand touchpoint is one way a rift develops between a prospective customer and brand – and a website that is difficult to use or isn’t engaging amplifies this effect.
The long term consequence of poor or disconnected brand experiences is that people don’t see value in what that business does, and look to the professional experiences that exist elsewhere in the marketplace.
Customer Intuition is Smart
Customers are savvy, and disjointed experiences are jarring and confusing. They know intuitively if a business hasn’t given a lot of thought in communicating with them, what they care about, and if something is going to fit who they are and what they need. The flip-side of this is that, when all touchpoints align, customers can lose themselves in the great design of a well-planned customer experience.
This is obvious in brands like Apple, who charge a premium for their products and services, but deliver authentic experience for their customers. They resonate with values like individuality, creativity, freedom, and music – and experience heavy buy-in from their fans along every touchpoint. They sell on the fact that they are designing a great experience specifically for their customers, and deliver that experience each time. Is it any wonder that they are the current market leader in most of their industry categories?
Plan for a Great Brand
By carefully designing and crafting your brand, any company can ensure a great, cohesive, and engaging experience. When a company takes control of their design and makes intentional, brand-driven decisions, their clients will get to know them better through your messaging, values, and authenticity. Better yet, because a brand develops whether that experience is controlled or not (just by customer experiences!), designing for success means avoiding common pitfalls and lack of interest and engagement.